Browsing "Autism Welcome Here"
Oct 25, 2017 - Autism Welcome Here, Gaming    No Comments

Game Night for Teens & Tweens on the Spectrum

With the help of a fabulous grant from Autism Welcome Here, AWPL began a series of programs for teens and tweens on the autism spectrum. With the help of our newly trained Teen Autism Ambassadors, our Game Night program was a success!

We began the night by showing everyone a visual itinerary to help folks know what activities to expect during the course of the evening. Our visual itinerary was large enough to be seen from across the room, and combined text with pictures for clarity.

For the first half of the evening, we set up various board game stations throughout the community room. Uno, Trouble, and Connect Four were very popular! I finally learned how to play Mexican Train from a helpful volunteer. During board game hour, we also set up Giant Jenga made from soda boxes, which was a huge hit. Our Teen Autism Ambassadors were a bit shy at first, and needed a bit of encouragement to approach teens they did not already know. This will have to be addressed with them at future meetings so that future events go smoothly. Taking the initiative can be tough!

With so many games different games available, attention span didn’t seem to be an issue. Everyone seemed to keep busy and entertained. In fact, we began our second half of the night late in order to accommodate the folks who wanted to finish their board games.

For the second half of the evening, we played some live action games that involved larger groups of people. Bonus: live action games can be really fun just to watch, too! We played a cooperative game called The Floor is Lava and Hungry Hungry Hippos. We had plans to play a live action Flow Free game, but sadly ran out of time. Here’s how we played our live action games:

To play “The Floor is Lava,” you’ll need 4 small wooden boards big enough for teens to stand on. To play in teams, you’ll need 4 pieces per team. Each team lines up and uses the wooden boards to get to the other side of the room, laying down one board at a time to build a pathway, because the floor is made of lava! This game was a huge hit, and the cooperative nature of the game would have made it a perfect icebreaker game. We will keep that in mind for next time!

For Hungry Hungry Hippos, we paired up in teams to recreate a favorite childhood game. We used a sack of pit balls in place of marbles. Each team of two formed a hungry hippo. Teens lay down on scooters while their teammate holds their feet to “steer.” The teen on the scooter uses an upside down laundry basket to catch as many balls as possible. This is a really fun game for everyone! The teens had a blast and took turns steering and catching.

We ran out of time for Flow Free, based on the popular online game, but the plan was to use colored duct tape to make pathways from different points in the room without overlapping any lines. We’ll let you know when we field test it!

We wrapped up the night with a round of apple juice and gluten free snacks.

Want to host your own Game Night for teens on the spectrum? It can be a really cost effective way to introduce inclusivity into your teen program lineup. All of the games we played were donated, Giant Jenga was created by collecting old soda boxes, and our live action games were all low maintenance.

We had set aside a “quiet room” at the beginning of the evening for any teens who felt overwhelmed. While no one needed it throughout the course of the evening, we will continue to have a designated quiet room at out other programs. Our quiet room was set up in our staff room, located near the Game Night event but away from the noise. We added some comfy beanbag chairs for relaxing, as well as adult coloring books and colored pencils, and a few fidget spinners. I hope this gives some peace of mind to our participants, knowing they can escape to a quiet zone if necessary.

All in all the night seemed to be a success!

Sep 28, 2017 - Autism Welcome Here    No Comments

Training the New Teen Autism Ambassadors

Our new Teen Autism Ambassadors’ main mission is to help out at all of our programs for teens and tweens on the spectrum that we will be holding throughout the year. “Improve Your Social Life: Social Skills and Having Fun for Tweens & Teens Living with Autism and Other Developmental Disabilities” is a series of programs at our library funded by the Autism Welcome Here grant. Recently, we held a training workshop for our newest ambassadors to learn about disability.


The workshop was led by Lisa Currao, who is also our program facilitator for our series of Social Skills programs. Lisa is a Special Education teacher who is also a parent of a teen on the spectrum. Here are some highlights from her presentation. Feel free to use our notes to train your own Teen Autism Ambassadors.


  • Developmental disability is different from cognitive disability. People with a developmental disability learn at a slower rate than others. A person with cognitive disability needs time to process what is being asked of them.
  • We should be aware of sensory issues that some people may have. Some folks will be sensitive to florescent light, for example, or become overwhelmed easily by noise or other outside factors.
  • Sometimes, people with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) will compensate for the sensory overload by engaging in stimming, short for self-stimulation. Stimming is a repetitive action like tapping that is used to self soothe.
  • Lisa stressed the importance of using person first language. For example, saying “person with autism” rather than “autistic person.”
  • Don’t force eye contact.
  • Encourage them to join in the activities without forcing them.
  • Specificity is key to encouraging appropriate behavior. For example, say “hands down” instead of “don’t hit” because they might only hear the word “hit.”
  • Touch only to help them learn what they need to do or point them in the right direction.
  • Most importantly, have patience relax, speak softly, and help them see that you are having fun so as to encourage them to join in. Treat them like one of your friends.


The workshop was really informative! After her lecture, Lisa encouraged the audience members to come up to the front of the room and demonstrate some activities that might help us understand what it’s like to have a disability. Here is a sample of the activities:


  • To understand what nonverbal people endure, have prewritten cards ready with a phrase such as “I want a Coke” or “I missed the bus.” Have one person act out the phrase while the audience tries to guess what they are trying to communicate.
  • Experiment with the Stroop Effect to experience processing difficulties. Click here to learn more and print out mini cards or use an online version of the test.
  • Have a participant stand on an uneven board that requires effort to stand on. Have them read aloud from a book while concentrating on keeping their balance.


I hope you find this helpful for your library volunteers!

Game Night for Teens and Tweens on the Spectrum

On September 22, 2017 there will be a Game Night for our new series of programs directed toward teensAutism Welcome Here Grant and tweens on the spectrum. This is the first series of programs to be held at the Albert Wisner Public Library sponsored by the generous grant awarded to the library by Autism Welcome Here.

We will be playing a life sized version of Jenga, Hungry Hungry Hippo and more. Stay tuned after the program for tips on how to recreate this program for your library’s teen patrons.